Centres of Influence Referrals

Centres of Influence referrals, or COIs, are incredibly important in generating clients who are a good fit for an advisor’s business and client base.

In our latest episode of Conversations on Wealth hosted by Sarah Widmeyer, Christina Clement, VP, Growth and Execution at Richardson Wealth explains what advisors need to do to get the referral strategy right, including:

– Take a systematic approach

– Explain your business model and how you’re different

– Understand that the process takes time, consistency, and commitment

Sarah Widmeyer  0:16

Welcome to Conversations on Wealth, a podcast dedicated to helping Canadians navigate the complexities of wealth with a multi dimensional approach to planning and wealth management. I’m Sarah Widmeyer, Senior Vice President and Head of Wealth Strategies at Richardson Wealth, and I’m so pleased to have my colleague today Christina Clement join me. She is Vice President–Growth and Execution here at Richardson Wealth, and a coach that works closely with our advisors across the country to help them enhance their practice and achieve success. Welcome Christina.

Christina Clement  0:52

Thanks for having me back, Sarah.

Sarah Widmeyer  0:54

So today we’re talking about Centres of Influence referrals or COIs. These professionals can be a goldmine of referrals to help advisors build their practice and deliver a higher standard of excellence to clients. But developing a strategy takes time and commitment. And sometimes advisors can get frustrated when they don’t see action. Christina, you say–I’ve heard you say many times, don’t blame the strategy, blame the execution. So let’s start there. What do advisors often get wrong when they consider strategies to generate referrals from COIs?

Christina Clement  1:32

So what’s interesting about most investment advisors and advisory teams is they are quick start, which means they’re full of ideas and want to seize on the latest idea and act on it, but they’re not necessarily good at the follow through. So here’s the strategy: “we’re going to develop COIs. Okay, great. How many people do I have to talk to let me go have lunch? Let me take this person for coffee, let’s do golf. And then therefore, they will forward me referrals.” It doesn’t work that way.

Sarah Widmeyer  2:00

It’s not that simple.

Christina Clement  2:01

It’s not that simple. So exactly the same process that they use to find–call it 150 quality households is the same process they need to apply to finding really good centres of influences or COIs.

Sarah Widmeyer  2:16

Okay, so you’ve talked also about six potentially harsh truths that advisors need to accept in order to get the referral strategy right. So let’s start with number one. Generating referrals from COIs is a client strategy first, you’ve just said that and business development second, this seems counterintuitive for many. Can you explain?

Christina Clement  2:40

Yeah, I think people are thinking, okay, so I want to build my business. And this is the way I’m going to do it. But you need to reverse that thinking on your head and say, “Okay, I represent 200 households or 200 families behind me, and what do they need? What are the services I provide? And what can I extend to people I’m working with? And how am I going to do that?” So you are shopping on behalf and selecting on behalf of the clients you represent. So it’s not about you, the advisory team, it’s about who are the best additional providers that I can create a circle of services for my client? You are the quarterback, so you need to find fit for them, not for you–your business, but you need to find a fit for your client. And so kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince. It’s a process. It takes time.

Sarah Widmeyer  3:33

Yeah, yeah, I think that’s probably the biggest thing I’m hearing, both from your introductory comments, and this, is that it takes time. And it’s not a “I’m taking them up for lunch and referrals will start flowing in. It really is something that they have to work at.

Christina Clement  3:48


Sarah Widmeyer  3:48


Christina Clement  3:49

And you have to be committed to it. And so that’s like, that’s not great news to someone who’s a quick start, right? Can’t I just do this and get that, but it’s not a direct relationship in terms of time in and time out.

Sarah Widmeyer  3:50

So you–you’ve spent a little bit of time talking about the fit and how important the fit is. And it needs to be right for both you and your clients. And also, you know, kissing a whole pile of frogs until you find your prince. The reality is that not everybody is a fit. So how do advisors start the process of determining which professionals are a good fit for their client base and their business, and where can they look beyond just lawyers and accountants?

Christina Clement  4:30

Yeah, so most investment advisors, when you say COIs, they go lawyers and accountants, and their mindset is “that doesn’t work. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.” Okay well, if you believe that to be true, then it is true for you.

Sarah Widmeyer  4:43


Christina Clement  4:44

So it’s about mindset. So is this possible. Are you open to the possibility? Do you want to try. So if you want to try.

Sarah Widmeyer  4:51


Christina Clement  4:51

I have this concept, like a–an A group and a B group. And you only need a handful of people. So A group, maybe it’s two or three, and then my B group, it’s two or three that are going to eventually replace my A’s. So I’m trying to nurture these relationships and create key contacts, the kind of people I’m looking for–yes, lawyers and accountants, but also, I as an advisor, where do I spend my money? Personally? Do I buy my car from the same dealership? Do I use a curated travel agent? Have I had a custom made kitchen installed in my house? Do those vendors–do we share the same clientele?

Sarah Widmeyer  5:32


Christina Clement  5:32

Right? Is my client and their client similar? And the people and places where I spend money–are they aware of what I do?

Sarah Widmeyer  5:40

I think that’s a big one.

Christina Clement  5:42

That–so here to tell you, they’re not aware of what you do

Sarah Widmeyer  5:44


Christina Clement  5:45

And how good are you explaining what your business model is. So I’m not suggesting that they’re responsible for bringing you clients, but you are responsible for ensuring that they understand what it is you do, how you’re different from other people. And I have this notion that they’re like soldiers, right? It’s an army where I am solely not responsible for building my business. I have educated others, and they are out in the community on my behalf, not to do my job, but at least to have an intelligent introduction and they can pick up on a situation.

Sarah Widmeyer  6:17

Yeah, yeah, very good advice. So again, coming back to this concept of it takes time consistency, commitment, you use the word commitment, so much like building a successful business. Again, it’s this big investment of time. So any tips to help advisors stay patient and continue to make progress?

Christina Clement  6:40

Yeah, so to me this is you have to have a systematic approach, which is okay, so “have I identified a shortlist of CEOs that I would like to reach out to?” Okay. So when am I going to do that, and here’s what I tell people. So if you have a commitment to this, because this is building your business, you need to time block for that. And you cannot go home on Friday night, until you finished. So you and fully intend at the beginning of week to call this one person to set up a coffee or a lunch and everything gets in the way. But my thing is, if you really want to move your business forward, you must take the time to do that, at some point during the week, it could be the last thing you do on Friday, but at least you’ve made that introductory call, maybe the person’s not there, but you left a message. So you have done your job. Okay, and so then what’s the next step? And what’s the next step? And this is how activity moves your business forward.

Sarah Widmeyer  7:34

Yeah and it’s like building a habit.

Christina Clement  7:37


Sarah Widmeyer  7:37

It’s like building a habit. You do it, you do it again, you do it again. And then it starts to become second nature.

Christina Clement  7:44

And if you don’t do it, you’ll feel bad about not doing it.

Sarah Widmeyer  7:48


Christina Clement  7:48

And then it becomes this downward spiral of “Oh, I’m no good at this, I should have been–right. And so really, to make yourself feel better, it’s about the activity, it’s doing the things that most people are not willing to do in order to move your business forward.

Sarah Widmeyer  8:00

Yeah, very good. So Christina, then in order to prove yourself, you need to actively build credibility and trust, and communicate your value, as we spoke about earlier, how can advisors do that?

Christina Clement  8:13

So what this is referring to is, I need to show a possible new COI relationship, that I am credible, and I am trustworthy. So how am I demonstrating that in this new relationship with my potential new partner? Because trust is built over time. Do I say what I’m going to do? Am I executing on the things I said I said I would call you Tuesday at two o’clock did I do that.

Sarah Widmeyer  8:38

So you really are proving

Christina Clement  8:39


Sarah Widmeyer  8:40


Christina Clement  8:40

So just with a client, right? All behaviors leading up to a client relationship and all the subsequent servicing I reinforced the message this was a good decision. I chose the right person, this person is not a flake. Yeah. And I can trust them. There will be there. I could refer them to other people because they consistently demonstrate this behavior to me.

Sarah Widmeyer  9:00

Yeah, yeah. Okay. So once an advisor then has established the COI relationship, how do they continue to nurture it and stay top of mind?

Christina Clement  9:12

Yeah, so consistent communication. So respectful follow up, I diarize. Okay, every quarter, I am going to call this person, right. So why am I calling them? Do I have a reason to call? You need a reason to call? So the reason is, every time I talk to someone, I learn enough about them so that the next time I have some thread to pick up on.

Sarah Widmeyer  9:35


Christina Clement  9:36

Right, like that’s my job. So it could be you recommended this restaurant to me, and I’ve subsequently eaten in that restaurant, so I’m calling you to say oh, yeah, I wanted to say and ra-ra-ra, that–that you know that–that I appreciated that I had this experience, or this book or this country or whatever it might be okay. It doesn’t have to be all business because you’re building a relationship

Sarah Widmeyer  9:56


Christina Clement  9:57

But I need a reason to call. How are you doing? You said you were working on that project? How’s it going? You know, had you met with our mutual client? Or (have) you come across any of these scenarios that I told you were part of solutions I provide to my clientele.

Sarah Widmeyer  10:13


Christina Clement  10:14

Just conversation. But I’m there on a regular basis. And I’ve scheduled it. So I know I’m going to make the call versus we’re going to have a two hour lunch, and I’m going to be the most fascinating person you ever met. So you’re going to carry with you how fascinating I am. And you’re going to think of me in your daily life for months after nah. But magic is regular follow up.

Sarah Widmeyer  10:38

Gosh, it seems so simple.

Christina Clement  10:39

No, it’s so not simple. But I make it sound simple, don’t I?

Sarah Widmeyer  10:42

You make it sound simple, but I think, okay, so maybe it is simple-ish. But the not simple part is doing it

Christina Clement  10:51

Correct, consistently. And here’s the thing, I have to be interested in this person, this has to be a genuine relationship. Like I worked with a new IA in the business. And he thought in his mind, the way to get referrals was people with small dogs had money. That was in his head. I’m–I, this is funny. He joined the pug society of the Greater Vancouver area. He did not have a pug. He did not own a pug. He just thought if I spend time with these people, then they will give me business. Guess what? That strategy didn’t work has to be genuine, I have to be genuinely interested in you, which is why I need to have a lot of conversations because I need to find my people. Just like I needed to find my clients, I need to find my COIs. And the best COI is a client COI.

Sarah Widmeyer  11:39

Oh… So talk about that for a minute.

Christina Clement  11:42

So if I’m a COI and you tell me what it is that you do, right, it’s kind of like you reading a brochure to me. You’re a walking brochure, right? That brochure sounds like everyone else’s brochure. How do I really have an experience of what it is you do unless I am your client? Or put me through a mini simulation?

Sarah Widmeyer  12:03


Christina Clement  12:03

So MyNextGenPlan, right? Could you do a you know, show me live half hour you have you know, these details about me. And so it gives me a snippet into, “hmm this is what it would be like to be a client here.” I think my clients so I’m an accountant, or I’m a lawyer, my clients would appreciate that. I’ve never seen this before this level of conversation, the quality of the questions are being asked this so that I can talk about that. Right. I did this 30 minute segment and I learned something I didn’t know I didn’t know. Oh, what else have you got? Like? That’s right. That’s interesting to me. versus, you know, in the material.

Sarah Widmeyer  12:40

Reading a bruchure. Yeah. Yeah.

Christina Clement  12:41

It sounds very similar. I can’t I have no experiential learning of that.

Sarah Widmeyer  12:45

So again, simple but not simple.

Christina Clement  12:48

Exactly. Exactly. Yes.

Sarah Widmeyer  13:02

Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with us. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Christina Clement  13:08

I think you have to give things time, right. And we said this before, but it is a big effort. But if you have a systematic approach, you’re very careful where and who you select, and you go deep, and you cut your losses for the people that aren’t a good fit, right? I talk about reciprocal referral relationship. So many times investment advisors will tell me, I refer to them and nothing comes back to me.

Sarah Widmeyer  13:08


Christina Clement  13:08

Okay, well, I don’t think you’ve had a meeting of the minds in the beginning, did you set the parameters, and you always need to give before you get right? You need to give, give give. And the act of social reciprocity says this person thinks you’ve given me so much, I need to start giving back to you because the scales are tipped the wrong way. So have you invested the time? Do you like this person enough to continue this relationship? Are you a fit, some people just aren’t a fit, not a fit with you. And your values are aligned to your client’s values. So unlikely. Not a fit with them. So be mindful, but it’s relationship development. That takes time. But it’s worth it. Because if you could get a couple of clients or a couple of COIs that are really invested in your business, they’ve probably right, like as a client COI, I’ve most likely given you all of my money, but I’m still a raving fan. So how else do I help you, right? Well, you need to tell me how I help you versus me just going out into the world and helping you on my own. What’s your process? How do I introduce you? What are the stories I’m looking for? What are the scenarios? What are the problems you help people solve? Help me help you?

Sarah Widmeyer  14:45

Yeah. Wow. Very good. Thank you. You’re welcome. I think the key here is that by putting clients first, advisors won’t go wrong. And with that lens, looking beyond traditional COI avenues may help you uncover a diverse mix of professionals that you might consider partnering with to benefit your clients. And if you’ve already established relationships, client relationships, finding ways to demonstrate and communicate your value will help you reinforce those relationships and encourage even more referrals. I’d like to thank Cristina for joining us today and helping provide some direction and guidance around this very important topic for advisors. Conversations on Wealth is available wherever you get your podcasts. Remember to follow up and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook for the latest on wealth strategies. Thank you all for listening and join me again next time.

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